Since chopsticks (and spoons) are used in place of forks and knives, Chinese cuisine tends to serve dishes in bite-size pieces or employ cooking techniques that render dishes such as fish or hong shao rou soft enough to be picked apart easily.

Some common etiquette is:

  • Chopsticks should always be the same length and held so that the ends are even, a practice popularly explained as due to the former use of uneven boards (三長兩短) in Chinese coffins.
  • Similarly, do not leave chopsticks sticking upright out of dishes, owing to a Chinese practice of leaving such dishes for the dead, and visual similarity to burning incense for the dead.
  • Do not chew on the ends of chopsticks, even if they are plastic.
  • Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.
  • Do not bang your chopsticks as though you were playing a drum. It implies you are a beggar or a child.
  • Treat chopsticks as extension of your fingers. It is impolite to use them to point at other people or to wave chopsticks around.
  • Unless they are disposable, chopsticks will be washed and reused. Consequently, don’t use them to pick at your teeth or for other unseemly endeavors.
  • Avoid spearing food with the chopsticks.
  • One should not ‘dig’ or ‘search’ through one’s food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as “digging one’s grave” or “grave-digging” and is extremely poor manners.
  • When not in use, and if the restaurant provides them, place the front end of the chopsticks on the chopstick rests. These are usually small ceramic rests placed near your napkin on the right hand side of your bowl.
  • Both hands should be above the table even when the left hand is not holding a utensil. For right-handed people who hold chopsticks in their right hand, their left hands either hold down the bowl on the table, or pick it up so that it is near the mouth. It is considered rude to leave the left hands on their laps, although exceptions are sometimes made when eating from a plate.

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